Honey Salt: A Taste of New England

Honey_Salt-placesettingHoney Salt is a farm-to-table restaurant in an upscale strip mall at 1031 South Rampart Blvd in the neighborhood of Summerlin. I first discovered it thanks to a post on Bite and Switch. This restaurant has been getting a lot of good press lately, and we stopped in on a Saturday afternoon to see what all the buzz was about.

The interior of the restaurant is bright and clean, with tables and chairs that evoke an upscale country feel. That feel continues with a smattering of kitsch and a wall full of pictures that are clearly Cape Cod (Massachusetts) inspired. Waitstaff are dressed in jeans and plaid shirts, the way Abercrombie and Fitch might envision a farmer’s attire.

Honey_Salt-Dining-RoomWhen we arrived we saw some very fashionable and well put-together folks dining right up front, and I thought that we might have been seated in a corner behind the bar due to my jeans-and-a-t-shirt sense of style. As the meal progressed we discovered that the party up front had reserved the area for a baby shower. Perhaps I was too quick to judge. There were a number of other casual diners in our little section, so we didn’t end up feeling at all under-dressed.

The mid-afternoon menu is brief, but had just enough interesting dishes to entice us to order. As we were not overly hungry, my girlfriend and I chose to split an appetizer, a burger and dessert. The waitstaff handled this request without a hitch or a grimace, though they did not go the extra mile and split the dishes for us. They simply placed the dishes in the middle of the table and gave us empty plates to serve ourselves. Having received this service at Omelet House and Coffee Pub recently, I’m afraid I’ve begun to expect it.

Honey_Salt-Red-DiaryWe received a bowl of warm rolls and very tasty cracker-like triangles served with a ramekin of house-made hummus as a complimentary starter. It all tasted good, but I would have preferred bread and butter or hummus with pita or pretzel chips. Perhaps I’m too much of a traditionalist. My girlfriend’s “Red Diary” cocktail ($10) was a bit sweet for my tastes, but it was obviously prepared with premium ingredients. I would have chosen the “Fat Tire Amber” ($6 bottle) from their solid list of micro-brews if I were having a beer, but I chose to forgo the alcohol on this occasion.

For our first course I put aside my usual reservations about ordering seafood in the desert and ordered the “New England Fry” ($14). This dish included fried clams, fried calamari, grilled shishito peppers and a lemon aioli. I grew up just a handful of miles from the world-famous clam shacks of Ipswich and Essex Massachusetts, so I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to fried seafood. Honey_Salt-New-England-FryThe serving was small, by New England standards, but that’s forgivable when you’re in the desert 2500 miles away. Both the clams and the calamari were lightly breaded, fried in clean oil (very important) and perfectly cooked. The clams were complete with bellies, and had a nice briny seafood flavor. The calamari, which I know is a challenge to get right, was tender, tasty and easy to chew. The aioli was okay as a dipping sauce, though I’m a bit of a purist and left it out after trying a bite. The peppers were good, but added nothing to the dish but color. They are not a traditional part of a “New England Fry,” and their flavor really didn’t match well with the rest of the dish. In the end, I was so impressed with the freshness and execution of the seafood itself that I didn’t really care what it was served with.

Honey_Salt-Backyard-Burger-and-FriesNext, we split a “Kim’s Style” (topped with a fried egg) “Backyard Burger” ($14), ordered medium. The burger was moist and delicious, with cheddar cheese melted on top and a homemade tomato ketchup already on the bun. The egg was fresh and cooked just right; it elevated the burger to a new level. On the side were fresh lettuce and tomato, tasty thin-cut french fries and a couple of pickle slices. It all looked and tasted so good that I didn’t bother to send back the burger, which was cooked closer to rare than medium.

"Medium Rare"

“Medium Rare”

For dessert we had the “Brown Bag Apple Pie” ($9). The brown bag is a bit of a gimmick, but the pie was delicious! We ignored the waiter’s suggestion of salted caramel ice-cream and went for the traditional vanilla. The ice-cream was smooth and creamy and a perfect complement to the warm apple pie.

Honey_Salt-Brown-Bag-Apple-PieOverall, I feel that Honey Salt is a good value. They are clearly sourcing premium ingredients, and except for the temperature on my burger, everything was executed perfectly. Service was solidly good, and the atmosphere was comfortable. They do seem to be trying a bit too hard in some ways, but I can forgive them wanting to stand out in the sea of great restaurants that is Las Vegas.

Update Feb 12, 2013: Honey Salt owner Elizabeth Blau took the time to contact me personally this afternoon to thank me for (the positives of) my review, and to clear up a couple of things. It is obvious that she is very passionate about the restaurant, and wants each customer’s experience to be just right.

Here’s three things I learned from our discussion:

  • Mid-afternoon seating is typically in the area behind the bar as the main dining area is used for staff meals and dinner prep.
  • The kitchen will plate split items separately when practical, however they choose not to sacrifice the presentation of a dish for the convenience of separate plating. Ms. Blau was pleased that her front of house staff handled the splitting request so well. (So were we.)
  • The brown bag in the brown bag apple pie is used to maintain just the right level of moisture. (I still maintain my assertion that plating it this way is a bit of a gimmick. Regardless, it’s delicious.)

Honey Salt on Urbanspoon
Connect with BAUSTIN on Google+

Pinball Hall of Fame: The Most Fun You Can Have for a Quarter

Pinball Hall of FameThe Pinball Hall of Fame is located in a large nondescript warehouse building at 1610 East Tropicana Avenue. There are easily a hundred pinball machines here, new and old, as well as a few vintage video arcade games. It’s like the pinball arcade you dreamed of when you were a kid. There is even a coin operated fortune teller and a “Peppy the Clown” musical puppeteer.

According to their website, this interactive museum is completely non-profit. They spend no money on advertising, heck they didn’t even spend money erecting a sign out front! Any profits above and beyond basic maintenance and operating costs are donated to the Salvation Army. This is clearly a labor of love.

Popcorn Machine at Pinball Hall of Fame 25 centsThe space is pretty basic. It’s a warehouse. Floors are cement, a plain drop ceiling hides wires, girders and pipes. Food and drink are available in the form of cold soda, candy and hot popcorn – which are sold from old fashioned vending machines for just a quarter or two.  Much like the nearby casinos, the only flashing lights and ringing bells come from the machines themselves.

Yes! You read me right, the machines are working. All of them. You can change your bills in for quarters and play any one you like. They work like they did when they were new – every light, every sound effect. “Hey Chucky, quit playing with the clock!” begged the clown in my “Funhouse” machine, plastic eyes darting around trying to follow the ball. Twenty years melted away while I played.

Dr Who Pinball Machine Information CardIt’s like an electromechanical museum, where they actually let you touch and play with stuff. Many of the machines have handwritten cards attached offering the history of the machine, numbers produced, etc. There are rare machines like the Gottlieb “Canada Dry” machine, released in 1976 as a promotional item, and available only in Europe. There are antique machines like Bally’s 1947 pitch and bat game “Heavy Hitter”. There are not only traditional pinball and pitch and bat machines spanning generations, there are also viewing galleries, shooting galleries and other historic electromechanical machines as well.

Target Roll Electromechanical Craps MachineIf you are a fan of the game of craps you definitely need to check out the Bally “Target Roll” machine. This machine was released in 1959 after it became illegal to sell gambling machines in all but a couple of US states. Cleverly disguised as a harmless pinball game, this machine is actually an electromechanical crap table! Roll a 7 or 11 on your come-out roll and the machine knocks loudly to signal that you should be paid. Roll 2, 3 or 12? Game over. Roll any other number and you have to match it. If you match, it knocks again and you start over, if you 7 out it’s game over. The “score” is random, simply there to fool the authorities. It’s brilliant!

There is also an area to the far left of the building where machines are repaired and restored. Peek here for a preview of what new games might be available soon. Last time I was in they were working on some interesting looking machines like “Safe Cracker” and “Alien Dunk.” I can’t wait to try them out.

Pinball Machines at the Pinball Hall of Fame Las VegasIf you’re old enough to remember pumping quarters into a favorite machine, they probably have it here. Drop a quarter in your favorite game – it’ll likely last longer and bring more smiles here than at any of the casinos down the street. It’s cheap, it’s nonprofit and it’s a chance to relive your childhood. It’s the most fun you can have in Vegas for a quarter, short of winning a jackpot.

Peppy The Clown Coin-Op MarionetteTips:

  • Check out their website (below) for a full list of games.
  • Quarters are available from a change machine inside, no need to bring your laundry money.
  • Unlike many places in Vegas that are open 24/7 (love that!) the Pinball Hall of Fame is only open 11am-11pm, midnight on Friday and Saturday.
  • If you can’t make it to the Pinball Hall of Fame, you can still play some of their machines. A few of their machines are on loan to the Riviera Casino, where they can be played 24/7.
  • You can bring the kids here, but you can’t just drop them off. Kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Website: www.pinballmuseum.org
Connect with BAUSTIN on Google+

Las Vegas Tips: The Two Dollar Trick

Two Dollar Bills - HorizontalLas Vegas runs on tips. You can tip the maitre d to get that table by the windows, you can tip the concierge for scoring those hard to get tickets to the latest show, sometimes you can even tip the hotel desk clerk to get a nicer room. But that’s not all, there are tons of little tokes to give when you’re out on the town in Las Vegas: bartenders, cocktail waitresses, pool boys, bellmen, coat check, the maid (if you have a hotel room), the valet (if you’ve never watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”).

The general rule of thumb for the average low-roller like me is to tip $1-2 for most of these services: A dollar a drink, a buck or two per night for room cleaning, one or two clams per garment at the coat check. The purpose of these tips is to reward proper service, and tips can become a large part of a service-person’s income.

The cocktail waitresses at your favorite casino (and the bartenders at your favorite bar) see a lot of George Washington’s. So, while a one dollar bill may be sufficient, it doesn’t really grab anyone’s attention. That’s no good. You want to make a positive impression – one where you are remembered as a good customer (tipper), worthy of the extra effort to provide exemplary service.

You could use two Washingtons at a time, and that might help, but in practice I haven’t really noticed much difference in the reaction I get with one bill vs two. You could tip with Lincolns (fives) or Hamiltons (tens), and that should get you noticed, but most of us regular folk simply can’t afford that. Besides, what’s the point of getting a free drink if you’re tipping more than the drink is worth?

Two Dollar Bills - BundleSo, you want to garner some attention without breaking the bank. The key to getting a reaction is to be different from all the other dollar bills out there – this is where the two dollar trick kicks in. Go to the bank and ask for some two dollar bills. Keep them separate from your other bills and use them for the small tokes. A wad of twos takes up less space in your pocket than the equivalent amount in ones, so you’re already ahead of the game.

The great thing about two dollar bills it that they are unusual. They look different enough from a one dollar bill that almost everyone gives them a second look. They get people’s attention. Some people collect them. Some save them to give to children. Some people believe they are lucky. Others will just cash them in. Whatever they do with them, they’ve just noticed you. They noticed that you’re tipping differently (and better) than most of their other patrons. You’re now the guy/gal that gives out the two dollar bills. You will be remembered as such. In fact, your server might even tell other servers about you.

Two Dollar Bills - VerticalThis little trick has gotten me free drinks at bars. Hotel maids have stopped me in the hall to thank me for the “lucky” bills. The cocktail waitress at one casino was bringing drinks so fast I couldn’t keep up. Lots of people ask where I got them. If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. Try it next time you’re heading out. You might be surprised at the results!


  • Any bank should be able to get two dollar bills for you, but it may take a few days to get them, so place your order in advance.
  • I’ve also had some luck getting twos at a casino cage. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • I have heard that some clubs give out two dollar bills as change to their (mostly) gentleman patrons. Perhaps one of my astute readers can confirm.

Have you tried the Two Dollar Trick? How has it worked for you? Leave a comment and let us know!

Connect with BAUSTIN on Google+

Coffee Pub – Breakfast just off the Strip

Coffee Pub Las Vegas entranceWhile for me, the concept of eating breakfast in Vegas is new (I used to get up at the crack of noon – there is just to much to do in Vegas after hours), there are a lot of great breakfast options to be found. One of these places, located off-strip, is the Coffee Pub.

The Coffee Pub is located at 2800 W Sahara Ave and can be a bit of a trick to find. The sign is fairly obvious from the road but you have to drive into and towards the back of what appears to be an apartment complex. The place itself kind of blends in.

Lobster Omelet at Coffee PubWe were actually confused about how to get into the building when we arrived since there was work being done on the sidewalk. A waitress kindly came out and directed us. We ended up sitting on the patio since the weather was so nice.

The waitstaff remained happy and attentive throughout our meal. We both ordered omelets and shared a “Famous Frozen Mocha Java”. The food was great! The mocha java was a perfect blend of coffee and chocolate, not too sweet. And the lobster omelet was cheesy and creamy with a ton of lobster in it. I was very full when we left.

Famous Frozen Mocha JavaOverall, I thought this was a great little breakfast place. (They also serve lunch, though I have not tried that yet). I will definitely go back and try more of their food.

Coffee Pub on Urbanspoon

Orleans Hotel

Photo - Boyd Gaming (Facebook)

Photo – Boyd Gaming

One of my favorite places to stay when I’m in Las Vegas is The Orleans hotel. Located a bit off strip, it is definitely more of a locals hotel and casino – which is kind of what makes it so cool.

Let’s start with some of the amenities. There are the typical things one would expect – a gym, pool and spa. The rooms are comfy, spacious, clean and reasonably priced. But they also have some other great extras – including a shuttle to the strip, a movie theater and a bowling alley.

Orleans-standard-roomAs someone who rents a car each time I go to Vegas, I really like the convenience of this hotel. Being off strip makes it a lot easier to get to during busy times. It has a huge lot so there is always parking (even when they have conventions). And, if I don’t feel like driving for a few days, I just park the car and take the shuttle. The free shuttle has two stops – at the sister property (Gold Coast) and right outside of Bill’s Gamblin Hall/across form Bally’s. For those of you who don’t know, that is right around the center of the strip. It’s a great starting point to head out from. Or, if you want to relax for a few minutes, Bill’s has been known to have some nice drink specials – like $1 Newcastles.

Orleans-deskThe rooms, like I mentioned above, are clean and spacious. Nothing extraordinary but they are a decent bargain. Since you are away from the noise of the Strip and downtown, it is pretty quiet.

The pool and the gym are very nice – especially when you consider that they mostly cater to locals. While I have only seen the pool from behind some windows (I am not a lounge around by the pool type) I can say I was impressed. The Viva Las Vegas convention is hosted here each year and they hold a lot of events by the pool. The gym looks right out onto the entrance to the pool and, let me tell you, when we stayed there during Viva I had the most memorable workout ever. I was able to watch as the Viva people came and went from the pool – it was like a Rockabilly parade!

Seriously, though – if you’re looking for a place to stay that is a little quieter but with easy access to the strip, try the Orleans.

  • Update: Bill’s Gambling Hall is closing for renovations on Feb 4, 2013. Starting Jan 28th, the Orleans shuttle will stop at the North Flamingo Entrance of Bally’s.


A Hearty Breakfast: Omelet House

Omelet_House-welcomeOmelet House is another great Las Vegas restaurant tucked away in a strip mall. Located at 2160 West Charleston, Omelet House is a large, homestyle breakfast and lunch restaurant with huge portions, friendly service and delicious food.

Omelets, as you would guess, are their specialty, and they offer over thirty varieties from the basic “Just Cheese” ($7.99) with a choice of cheddar, jack, Swiss or American, to the over the top “Kitchen Sink” ($11.99) which weighs in at about three pounds and really does have everything but the kitchen sink in it. Each omelet is made with no less than six eggs, loaded with fresh fixings and accompanied by their made-to-order crisp, thick-sliced potato chips and a choice of homemade pumpkin or banana nut bread. The homemade breads are served warm, moist and fresh, with butter. Don’t tell my grandmother I said this, but their breads are even better than hers. I have had both and I’d have to give a slight edge to the pumpkin bread, but they are both amazing.

Pumpkin BreadFor $0.95 you can split your plate with your dining companion. This makes for a great value, as half an Omelet House omelet is plenty of food for most appetites, and each plate tends to come with more than a 1/2 portion of their delicious chips. On my last visit my girlfriend and I shared a “Black Forrest” (Swiss cheese, ham and mushroom omelet), which cost only $10.94 for both of us including the split plate fee. I ordered my own square of pumpkin bread ($2.19). With two bottomless coffees ($2.49 each) our entire meal came in under $25 including a generous (and deserved) gratuity. If dining alone they also offer a “small” portion, similar to what you would get when splitting, but at an $0.89 cent discount off the full portion ($9.10 in this case), this isn’t quite as strong of a value. Besides, this place is too good not to share.

Split Plate

Split Plate

Service is friendly and efficient. Not only did they not bat an eyelash when I announced I would like to share my omelet, they brought it out already divided and plated. Very nice! They have handled late arriving guests and early check requests (plane to catch!) with ease, and never fail to make me feel at home. Omelet House consistently fills me up and sends me away smiling.


  • Omelet House also serves eggs benedict, pancakes, french toast and other standard breakfast fare as well as burgers and sandwiches for lunch.
  • If you have fond memories of the Omelet House at the Plaza, then rejoice! This is indeed the same place, except with shorter lines and better service. The decor isn’t quite the same, but the menu is!
  • The West Charleston location is the original, and the subject of this review, but if you can’t make it there try one of the other Omelet Houses at 316 North Boulder Highway in Henderson or 6520 Boulder Highway in Southeast Las Vegas.

Website: www.omelethouse.net
Omelet House on Urbanspoon
Connect with BAUSTIN on Google+

Gold and Silver Pawn: Long Lines, Short Changed

Gold and Silver Pawn Las VegasFor those that don’t know, Gold and Silver Pawn is the pawn shop that the hit reality television show “Pawn Stars” is based upon. The shop is located between the strip and downtown at 713 South Las Vegas Blvd. Due to the popularity of the show, there are often long lines of people baking in the sun waiting to get inside. When they are filming you will wait even longer… No-one is allowed in or out during most of the filming.

Once inside it’s one huge line of people snaking around the small (smaller than it looks on tv) shop. It’s pretty much single file, moving slowly around the shop in as orderly a fashion as possible. There’s enough pressure from the crowd behind you to keep you from lingering too long to fancy any one thing. You get to see most of what the shop has to offer, rather sequentially. Eventually the line weaves past the registers and out of the store, your passage out allowing one more person in.

Picadilly Circus Roulette Machine at Gold and Silver PawnI’ve joined the lines outside Gold and Silver a couple of times now. Once with my girlfriend, and once with my dad. Each time I’ve waited no less than 45 minutes in the hot Las Vegas sun to get in. In both instances, the only person I recognized from the show was Antoine the bouncer, who was manning the door. Inside I did see a number of items from the show: superbowl rings, the Jimi Hendrix artwork, presidential signatures, the Piccadilly Circus electronic roulette slot machine, and merchandise… lots of merchandise… t-shirts, coffee cups, those silver coins with the Old Man’s mug on them… you name it.

Gold and Silver pawn is no longer a pawn shop, and the stars of the show no longer “work” there. I’m pretty sure a couple of them never did. It’s a set for a tv show, and it’s a tourist trap. If you treat it as a busy museum, it’s kind of cool. You can see some neat, rare and valuable items – some of the same items that are featured on tv. If you just hit a colossal jackpot you might even be able to take one home. Otherwise, it’s “free” entertainment.. the only cost is your time and your discomfort, waiting to get in.

Superbowl Rings at Gold and Silver Pawn Las VegasTips:

  • If you go, don’t expect to meet the Old Man, Rick, Cory or Chum.
  • Don’t expect to be on television unless you have an appointment.
  • And don’t expect to pick up a cheap souvenir, unless you want to buy the same trinkets they’re hawking on the History Channel website.
  • Do bring a big jug of water, a fold up chair, and some sunscreen. The throngs waiting outside with you will think you’re a genius, and you’ll enjoy the rest of your day a whole lot more.

Website: www.gspawn.com
Connect with BAUSTIN on Google+

Three Drinks for the Apocalypse and Where to Get Them

Zombie at Frankie's Tiki Room

Zombie at Frankie’s Tiki Room

In 2009 Jill Sobule released California Years, which features “A Good Life”, the best (and only) apocalyptic love song I know. In it she croons: We won’t have to make our beds, so break out the booze, and like I said, let’s have a ball before we’re dead… In that spirit, here are three great drinks to party it up in case the Mayans were right:

1) Zombie: For those seeking a zombie apocalypse, this 1930’s cocktail made from a blend of exotic rums (including 151), lime juice (and a few other secret ingredients) will surely do the trick. Made properly, this drink includes more than four ounces of liquor and often carries a two-drink limit – for tradition’s sake.

Where to get it: Frankie’s Tiki Room. 1712 West Charleston Blvd. Frankie’s makes some of the best (and most potent) drinks available anywhere. It’s the perfect place to spend your final hours. Check out my writeup of the place here.

2) La Fin Du Monde: A Belgian style triple fermented wheat beer made by Unibroue in French Canada. It’s name is translated from the French as “The End of the World.” At 9% alcohol, this is the perfect brew to dull your pain.

Where to get it: The Yard House. 6593 Las Vegas Blvd South (Town Square). On tap while supplies last.

3) The Last Word: A balanced and unusual prohibition era cocktail made from Gin, Green Chartreuse, Maraschino Liquor and Lime Juice. It has an ominous cloudy green glow and a unique bright herbal flavor. It’s the perfect cocktail over which to utter your last words.

Where to get it: Herbs & Rye. 3713 West Sahara Ave. No bar in Las Vegas takes their classic cocktails more seriously.

How will you toast the end of the Mayan calendar?

Connect with BAUSTIN on Google+

Fremont Street Stage Shows: Rock Candy Sticky Sweet (and friends)

Rock Candy Sticky Sweet LogoRock Candy Sticky Sweet is a rock’n’roll stage production sponsored by the Fremont Street Experience. Their show consists of multiple vocalists, dancing girls (this must be a theme around here), a drummer and a single guitarist. They perform powerful, fun rock songs like “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, and “Nuthin’ But a Good Time”. It’s all very polished and it sounds great.

Each musician gets a chance to strut their stuff, with solos by each vocalist, the guitarist and the drummer. Each of the songs has choreographed dance moves – sometimes by just one or two performers, sometimes by the entire troupe. It’s clear that these are well seasoned performers, and it’s clear that they are having a good time while on stage. It makes for a show that’s fun to watch over and over. See what I mean?

And if you spend a few nights in front of their stage that’s exactly what you will do. The show repeats itself a bit, but that’s the nature of a stage production. It trades variety for consitency and quality. Luckily, I haven’t yet tired of “Rockin” Renee’s rendition of Pat Benetar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” or “Hit Man” Hunter’s pitch perfect performance of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality”.

This solid group of performers is put together by Face Productions for the Fremont Street Experience. As far as I can tell, the show is exclusive to Fremont, and the troup of performers is employed (with some variations in cast) for a number of different shows on Fremont. Spend enough time at the stages downtown and it all starts to come together: Many of the performers you see as Rock Candy Sticky Sweet throughout the year are also in the Halloween shows “Frank and the Steins” and “Drac and the Vamps”. At Christmas, you’ll notice a couple familiar faces in “Candy and the Canes”. Each show is its own production, has different dancers and different songs are performed, but the basic lineup appears to be drawn from the same cast. Here’s “Frank and the Steins” performing this past October:

So, if you love these performers, but tire of seeing them play the same old songs, just check out one of their other incarnations. “Rock Candy Sticky Sweet” and “Frank and the Steins” are the most polished, have the most performers in common, and are my personal favorites, but all these shows are pretty amazing for the low low price of free. Here’s hoping that the Fremont Street Experience brings these talented performers back in 2013 with a few new tricks up their sleeves!

  • The Fremont Street shows are typically three hours long with three separate sets. Since these are stage productions that change little from night to night you can catch each hour of the show on a different night.
  • I could not find websites (or even Facebook pages) for Rock Candy Sticky Sweet, Frank and the Steins, Drac and the Vamps or Candy and the Canes to share with you, so watch for performances by them on the Fremont Street Experience Calendar, linked below.
  • If you know of other Face Productions shows that feature the same performers, or you know more of the backstory on these productions, please share in the comments.

Website: www.vegasexperience.com
Connect with BAUSTIN on Google+

Downtown Cocktail Room: An Air of Exclusivity

Downtown Cocktail Room Las VegasThere is a certain satisfaction in knowing a secret, being part of the “in” crowd. I have to admit, it’s fun sitting inside the Downtown Cocktail Room, sipping a cocktail, watching people try to figure out how to get inside. Some figure it out straight away, some give up way too easily. Some people are really determined, but just can’t quite figure it out. Usually someone will let them in… eventually.

Downtown Cocktail Room Las VegasDowntown Cocktail Room is at 111 Las Vegas Bouevard South, where it intersects with Fremont Street East. From the outside, this place doesn’t look very inviting. There’s a simple red neon sign atop the building, else you would never guess there was a bar inside. Once you figure out how to get inside it’s a different story. Dim lighting, dark red walls with simple black and white artwork and modern furniture transform this otherwise shabby room into a chic lounge. A dark translucent curtain over the floor to ceiling windows in the entrance creates a two way mirror effect, offering a view of Las Vegas Boulevard and of the people trying to find their way inside. The resulting vibe is that of a secret hideaway, a modern speakeasy.

If you go early, and I recommend you do, the music is usually just quiet enough to allow for conversation and relaxation. Monday through Friday from 4-8pm they offer happy hour specials, including seven dollar hand-crafted original cocktails, three and four dollar beers and five dollar wine. The cocktails are the raison d’etre, and they truly are both hand-crafted and original. The menu changes with the seasons, and the cocktails are rated based on their complexity. Level 1 drinks are as easy to drink as kool-aid, and level 5 are incredibly complex and filled with unusual flavors – the sort of drink that you need to work up to.

Downtown Cocktail Room Don't Fig With MeOn my last visit, I went right in the middle and ordered the Level 3 “Don’t Fig With Me”, aptly described on the menu as “Autumn in a glass”. The main spirit for this drink is Apple Jack, melded with flavors of fig, orange and cinnamon spice. Everything tastes fresh and natural. The glass is rimmed with cinnamon sugar. This drink fits the season perfectly, and its texture is somewhat thick and pulpy, which encourages sipping instead of gulping. It’s a decent value at the regular price of nine dollars, and a bargain at the seven dollar happy hour price.

When you go to the Downtown Cocktail Room, you are not limited, however, by the menu. This is one of the few craft cocktail lounges in Las Vegas where you can tell the bartender what sort of drink you are in the mood for and they will craft something to your tastes. I did just that on one of my early visits. I liked the resulting drink so much I had to get the recipe and buy the ingredients so I could make it at home. It’s a variation on the Alaska Cocktail, and it really was exactly what I was looking for.

Las Vegas learned long ago that it’s the little things that make a customer feel special, like a VIP, that keep them coming back. At Downtown Cocktail Room, one way they do this is their little black book. It’s a brilliant idea, really. There is a special black book that they keep behind the bar, full of recipes for off the menu drinks that their regular customers enjoy. If you’re there enough, and they take a liking to you, they might offer to put your favorite drink in there. You definitely feel like a VIP ordering your own drink from the book, and having the recipe in writing ensures that the drink is made consistently, regardless of who your bartender is.

Downtown Cocktail Room is a delightful respite from the craziness of Fremont Street. Find your way in, relax in a comfy chair (or bar stool) and chill with a tasty beverage. It’s a great way to start your evening!

Downtown Cocktail Room Between the SheetsTips:

  • To get inside you need to push on the most immovable looking thing in the entrance. You’ll see what I mean.
  • Downtown Cocktail Room also offers up a few classic cocktails on it’s menu, which can also be had at a discount during happy hour. The drink to the right, “Between the Sheets” from the Autumn menu, is one of my favorites.
  • Check out the lower right corner of their cocktail menu for “Nosh”, a few small, tasty morsels that go perfect with your drink (2 for $5). The Honey Sesame Cashews are quite good.

Connect with BAUSTIN on Google+